Pushing Hard: Getting Results

(Source: Walt Hilsenbeck)

(Source: Walt Hilsenbeck)

There’s an old Fire Sign Theater line: “If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.” The Fire Sign guys make this statement as if it were a universal truth. But they weren’t thinking about young athletes when they said this back in the early 1970s. Another view might be: “If you push something hard enough, it will get stronger.” Jesse Biddle’s pitching schedule has been a bit intense for most of thisseason. He has had nine starts since the season opened and has thrown in 50.2 innings. Only New Hampshire’s Deck McGuire has had more innings. Pushing hard, though, is important at this stage of a young starter’s career — both for Jesse and, for that matter, Deck Maguire who is also in his second year of AA ball. The two of them faced off in Manchester, NH this past Wednesday and had a doozy of a pitcher’s duel. Jesse went six innings, gave up one unearned run, struck out 7, walked 4, and allowed just two hits in 81 pitches. Maguire went 7.1 innings and gave up two earned runs on 4 hits while striking out 8 and walking 2. The Fightins would prevail after both pitchers were well into their post-performance workouts, 5-4 in the 10th. You can read about the whole game here. Tyler Knigge came in to close out the game in the 10th and was money, notching his first save of the season. The Fightins had lots of other heroes in the game, including Anthony Hewitt, Carlos Alonso, and Cameron Perkins who had the game winning double in the 10th. Jesse got things started in that game giving up a double and then walking the next batter who would eventually score on an error. Not a great way to get going in the game, especially in enemy territory. The game was not televised but it was also clear that there were some issues with pitches on the edge of the strike zone. For whatever reason, Jess wasn’t getting pitcher supportive calls. It was rare that he didn’t find himself in the hole to start off most of the hitters he faced all day long. But he battled with every guy at the plate. Besides the double he gave up in the first, he didn’t give up another hit until he had one out in the 6th. That’s some decent pitching by anyone’s definition. It’s too bad that performance wasn’t on TV because we would have had a chance to watch the kid battle through every inning. He also got some stellar play in the field from his teammates, including a diving catch by Cameron Perkins to end the Fisher Cat threat in the first, and a 5-4-3 double play in the third. Jesse had a battle on his hands in Trenton the Friday before as well. Once again, reporters not at the game came up with words like “roughed up” and “struggled.” That was partially true, but the Thunder is one of the best hitting teams in the Eastern League and Jesse went into the 6th holding them to three runs on 8 hits. He would get the loss (8-2), but also have the chance to facedown good hitters in their home stadium. Pitching under duress like that is a fact of life on every level of baseball. There’s no way to get good enough for the next step up if you can’t face off against a team that is capable of handing you your head. For more on this theme, check out today’s Daily News piece by Andrew Albert, “Biddle Biding His Time.” Jesse’s next home start in Reading will be Tuesday night, May 20, at 6:35 p.m. If the rotation continues on this swing, he won’t throw at home again until the second week of June. Come out to watch the Fightins any night they’re playing at home. They’re only 3.5 games out of first place and it’s pretty likely they are looking for blood against the Portland Sea Dogs and Trenton Thunder who they face in Reading at the end of June and the beginning of July. Good young players. Good beer. Good food. Great music. And a circus on the field between every inning! You can’t ask for more here in 2014 America.

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